Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Over-cooked Kids...", Or "Honey, I Burned the Children"

“And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.”   Exodus 2:3

It’s been many, many years now…all eight of our children were still at home, and it was our custom to go out every Saturday afternoon, as a family, and make visits for the Church.  We would finish this lovely outing with a little tradition:  my husband would drive to a little store and the children would go in and buy sodas and treats.  I don’t know why, but while we were enjoying this little outing that afternoon, I sat straight up in my seat, and asked a question whose answer I feared:  “Did anyone turn off the fire under the beans?”  And the awaited answer started in the form of a little chorus:  “…I didn’t…neither did I…nor I…I didn’t either.”

I’ll never forget the long ten minute drive home.  I expected to see fire trucks in front of our house.  Thankfully, they weren’t there.  But as soon as the boys opened the gate, and even before I jumped out of our truck, I could smell the burned beans.  The first thing I did was exactly what you would have done:  I turned off the fire, and ran outside with the pot of charred beans, because the house was full of smoke.  Curtains, carpets, and couches kept that terrible memory for many, many days.  How embarrassing to have our guests come in our house!  “Is something burning?”  And I would have to reveal my great mistake:  “I left the fire under the beans when we went out.”

I would like to give a little piece of advice to all you Moms: a gentle warning:  TURN OFF THE FIRE!!  Your children are done.

Referring to the Bible passage of the very well-known story in Exodus 2:1-10, we read about the care of a mother for her child.  Jochebed was little Moses’ mother.  Her son’s life was in danger.  Pharaoh had commanded to kill all the male Hebrew babies.  But Jochebed didn’t give up.  She had to do something to save her baby’s life.  So she hid him.

I have no idea how this Hebrew mother was able to hide her little boy from the Egyptian soldiers who passed in front of her house.  But we must believe the Bible when we read that she hid him for three months.

But the Bible also states that the day came when she could no longer hide him.  To keep him at home would mean certain death.  So Jochebed had a plan.  The Word of God says that she took for him an ark of bulrushes.  I’m not familiar with bulrushes, but perhaps she chose those that easily took the form of a little cradle.  Then she “daubed” it with slime and with pitch.  She made it waterproof.  She did absolutely everything she could think of to protect her little treasure.

Now I’m sure that all of Jochabed’s actions are not recorded in the Bible.  Holy men of God wrote the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Surely if a woman had written this account, it would read something like this:  “Through her tears Jochebed then took her little Treasure’s softest blankets, she dressed him with the sweater and little cap she had knitted for him before he was born, and with all the tenderness of her mother-heart she lay that little piece of her heart in the ark, and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.”

I hear you:  “How could a mother do such a thing…leave her baby in an ark in the Nile River!”  I’ll tell you how:  by the divine grace of God, and through her faith in Him.

Very little has been said about this woman, Jochebed.  But to my way of thinking she is the ultimate of the description of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31.  What wisdom Jochebed showed!  She was led by God, and she obeyed Him.  She did exactly what God showed her to do.  God in His infinite love used Jochebed, in reality, to lead the great Exodus of the Israelites in years to come.  God used Jochebed, because she allowed Him to.

But it cost her something.  It cost her something that at times you and I as mothers are not willing to sacrifice:  she had to leave Moses in God’s hands.  The day came, according to the Bible, when she had done everything possible to protect her little one.

I would like to tell you something.  If you haven’t yet had a “Nile River” experience, your day is coming.  The day will come when you’ll look at that handsome 18 year-old young man.  You’ll look at those hands, hands that caressed your face while you nursed him.  Little hands that got muddy, and hands that got hurt, and hands that you kissed when he mashed his finger.  And you’ll have to say, “This is it, Son.  I’ve trained you, I’ve cared for you, and I’ve protected you.  Now I’m leaving you at Bible College.  The next time I see you, you won’t be the same.  You’ll be more mature.  You’ll know new things about God from your teachers.  Perhaps the next time I hug you, you will know the perfect will of God for your life.  Or maybe there will be a young lady by your side with whom you have fallen in love, and who will help you carry out the will of God for your life.”

Moses became a great leader, a famous man in history.  Very few people, even though they may be pagans, have not heard the name Moses.  But we would never know a great Moses had there not been a great Jochebed.

Sometimes I ask myself, “Why didn’t the other Hebrew mothers use this plan to save their babies’ lives?”  I don’t know.  But could it be because they weren’t willing to risk the lives of their little ones in exchange for a little ray of hope that perhaps they would escape death while they were hidden in the Nile River?

How many Moses’ are in the world today who missed the perfect plan of God for their lives, simply because there was no Jochebed there for them?

One of my favorite dishes is beans.  Mmmm.  Give me a bowl of beans, a slice of buttered cornbread, and a little pepper sauce!!  Royalty doesn’t know such a delicacy!

But there’s nothing more horrible than that pot of burned beans that came out of my kitchen that afternoon when I returned home.  I had over-cooked them.  They were burned.  They had turned into despicable ashes…good for nothing.  They left an unpleasant odor, and they embarrassed me when my friends came over.

This isn’t the noblest motive you can have, but if it’s the only thing that motivates you to give your children to God when they’re “done,” I would like to ask you a question:  “Don’t you want to be proud of your children?”  Well then let them go when your training session is over.  Give them to the Lord so He can do with them as He wishes.

How to turn off the fire,

1. When they decide to go to college, or other fields of training.  If I had to choose only one word that would stand for the greatest gift you could give to your adult child, it would be the word “freedom.”  Untie your apron strings.  Cut the navel cord, and let them go.  At the risk of sounding like a modern day mother, I beseech you to let your children go once you’re through “cooking” them.  For the seventeen…eighteen years that they live under your roof, you have a perfect right, the obligation to build walls, barriers around your children.  We’ve heard volumes of sermons about the different types of walls we are to put around our children.  But once “your little loaf of bread” comes out of the oven, turn off the fire, and let ‘em go.  If you were faithful in building walls of protection, now you should test those walls, put to the test what you’ve taught them.  Don’t embarrass your children by sending them off to college with their pants or their dress on fire, and smelling of smoke.  TURN OFF THE FIRE WHEN THEY LEAVE FOR COLLEGE.

2. When they decide to serve the Lord in full-time service.  The phrase “full time” when referring to the Lord’s work means that one has decided to have a ministry requiring all his or her time, with no time to do secular work, as the ministry of Pastor, teacher in a Christian School, missionary, etc.  It also means that for the most part…in ugly terms…they will have to sacrifice material things, such as a financial retirement plan…what’s more a full-time worker never retires, so he doesn’t need such a plan.  It also means that he or she isn’t promised yearly vacations, which means that you will have to go a long time without seeing your offspring.  Maybe they won’t have a late model car, or possibly they won’t even have a car.  All of the above comes from the imagination of a mother who still hasn’t turned off the fire under that child that has decided to serve the Lord full time.  And even if all those things were true, a mother who has truly turned off the fire has learned to trust completely in the Lord.  I never tire of hearing the story of Abraham and Isaac.  He had waited all his life until he was an old man for God to give him the promised son, Isaac.  And while Isaac was still a young man, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar.  Now, Abraham loved his son as much as you love yours.  But he loved God more.  We have all heard sermons about Abraham’s faith in God…how he believed that God would raise his son after he sacrificed him.  Although God stopped him before he could take the life of his son, He saw his obedience, and gave him back his son.

I wonder:  What did Jochebed have in mind that day when she left her baby in the Nile River?  He was a tiny baby.  Surely she still nursed him.  What was her plan for feeding her little one…for changing his diapers…for protecting him when night came?  Just as Abraham had faith in God that He would give him back his son, I believe that Jochebed had faith enough to believe that God would miraculously care for her baby.  What a surprise when the princess arrived, and found the little Jewish baby, and sent his sister, Miriam, to bring a nurse for him!  But we’re not surprised to read that his sister brought Jochebed…and she was given wages to raise her own little boy.  Did you know God can do more with your child than you can?  Trust completely in God when you TURN OFF THE FIRE WHEN YOUR CHILD DECIDES TO SERVE GOD FULL TIME.

3. When they decide to get married.  This is perhaps the most difficult time of a mother’s life.   Especially if she still hasn’t turned off the fire by this time.  What a joy it is to be a mother!  The first years of your baby’s life you are the center of his world.  He depends completely on you.  This forms a sort of bond between you and your child.  If things develop normally, little by little your child will become independent of you…normally.  Unfortunately, those mothers who insist on remaining Number One in the life of her child, to the point of “over-cooking” him, suffer incredibly when they decide to marry.  She’s no longer the Biggie in his or her life.  She must share his attention, his caresses, his words of love, and his confidence.  Those mothers look at their child’s spouse as the competition.  Woe unto that couple that suffers from this kind of a mother.  It is hard for a marriage like this to survive, and sadly they sometimes end in divorce.  Every morning I ask the Lord to help me never to interfere with the marriage of my children or the discipline of my grandchildren.  I thank the Lord that I learned to TURN OFF THE FIRE WHEN MY CHILDREN DECIDED TO GET MARRIED.

Praise the Lord for Jochebed, the woman used by God to save the life of the man who saved His people.


Susan said...

I believe this is excellent advice, Mrs. Sloan, and I thank you for it. My children are 23, 21, and 19 (2 boys and a girl, in that order). My oldest is getting married in January, and my two younger children are still in Bible college.

When our children each left for college, my husband and I determined that we would be there for our children for counsel and help, and we love to have them visit when they can, but we raised them to be adults, and we are treating them as such. They each work their school-year jobs all summer and at Christmas break, which means they don't come home for their entire breaks - just a few days now and then.

As I prepare to be a mother-in-law, I pray quite often that the Lord will help me to keep my opinions to myself and allow my son and his wife to live their life serving the Lord (they are going to the Philippines as missionaries, and how I dread the day we see them off - but I will not stand in their way of serving the Lord!).

I just want to thank you for reaffirming that we're headed in the right direction. I've really enjoyed your blog posts; please continue to write!

stephanie neilsen said...

Thank you for writing this. Our kids are still small. 13,9,5,and 10 months, and I dread the day I will have to let them go. It encouraged me to continue to do all I can to train them while I can.
Thank you!

Sarah Joy said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I've got four little ones still simmering, but I can testify the feeling of incredible joy I had when I went to Bible college, where I knew God had led me. I was completely depending on God for my spiritual life, and my parents let me go. I know they did so joyfully, which was so freeing to me. There was no worry that they were upset about my desire to serve God, or worried at all that I would find God's will. It gave me confidence in God's leading and supported my walk of faith. I hope I can be so brave when it comes time for my children to start on that journey.

Lisa said...

My children was 5, 3, 1 and I'm 7 months pregnant. I want to print this off and keep it for the future!